Windy City Reps

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Humidifiers for Commercial Buildings

October 29, 2021

As far back as the Middle Ages, people have associated air quality and health for centuries—with good reason. However, with the advent of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, indoor air quality is both increasingly controllable and important. As the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures increases, so does the proliferation of potentially deadly health hazards indoors. If your environment is too humid, there’s an increased potential for the growth of biologicals such as black mold. If it is too dry, you can risk nosebleeds, respiratory infections, and dehydration.

​So, how can you reach the right humidity level?

Interior Air Quality Benchmarks

​Maintaining relative humidity (the amount of moisture in air compared to how much it can hold) is so crucial to human health that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require hospitals to maintain minimum levels of 20%. Other standards agencies are more precise, setting a maximum humidity level of 60% to inhibit bacterial and mold growth.​

As with health, humidity control is also crucial in manufacturing environments. Too low, and static electricity can cause arcs or short-circuit electronics. Too high, and the likelihood of condensation can ruin products and slow down production.​

This represents both a challenge and an opportunity for HVAC engineers. By leveraging interior humidifiers in cold weather and outdoor ventilation in hot weather, they can provide a consistent, healthy, and cost-effective environment.

​Options for Humidifiers in Commercial HVAC Systems

​There are many options for commercial humidifiers. Choosing among them is a daunting task for any engineer. Luckily, it’s not quite as complex as it seems. They fall into two groups: humidifiers which provide additional moisture by creating steam (an “isothermal” process), or by spraying droplets of water into a building’s air (an “adiabatic” process). Isothermal humidifiers are either steam-, gas-, or electric-powered, while adiabatic humidifiers are solely electric. ​

Isothermal humidifiers are effective but also create heat, which can be a problem during the spring and summer. Adiabatic humidifiers, on the other hand, are slightly less powerful, making them most useful in smaller areas or rooms with specific humidity requirements. 


Balancing Climate with Existing HVAC Systems and Budgets

​There are always variables that come with designing an all-new HVAC system for a facility or retrofitting existing ones to include humidifiers for commercial buildings. Since humidifiers are often a secondary concern after designers address heating, cooling, and ventilation, they must work within a few parameters. Their specifications include:

  1. Cost: Humidifiers display a wide range in both initial and operating costs. Some types don’t cost much initially but incur high utility bills over time—and vice versa.
  2. Existing water/steam access: A water source may seem obvious for humidification, but the quality of the supply matters as well. Hard water and other contaminants can build up on system surfaces and reduce your unit’s maintenance and durability. In addition, lines must be run to wherever the humidifier is located. In the case of standalone units, keeping tanks full and clean is an ongoing maintenance need.
  3. Ductwork and areas to be humidified: Some spaces must have more carefully regulated humidity than others, with the operating rooms in hospitals, server rooms and some manufacturing process areas being common examples. However, due to the energy cost of humidification, using standalone units in these areas may make more sense. Additionally, duct systems may need to include a drain pan and condensate line to manage undesirable carryover.
  4. Climate and existing HVAC load: Isothermal humidification options will naturally increase the heat in a space, while adiabatic ones will naturally cool the space. Savvy engineers know that working with an area’s climate can help reduce future energy costs. Isothermal humidifiers may be the best option for dryer climates, while adiabatic humidifiers can be your best bet in more humid conditions.

​These are just a few of the considerations designers must address when they incorporate humidifiers into their commercial buildings. Luckily, you’re not short on options, and Windy City Representatives are here to help you find the right one for your needs.

Choose the Right Humidifier for Your Commercial Building

Windy City Representatives is a leading distributor for name-brand, reliable, and high-quality humidifiers. Contact us today for a quote or bid on your commercial project.

At Windy City Representatives, we partner with premier HVAC equipment providers to help you design the best HVAC system for your building or facility’s needs and budget. 

Contact us today for a quote or bid.
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